Last month, HPE announced it was channelling investment into training and enabling its channel partners' solution architects, describing them as being "at the centre of their customers' business IT decisions".
The vendor explained at the time that the rollout of HPE Tech Pro Community would provide support, training and rewards to partner solution architects, to enable them to prescribe customers with "the correct blend of enterprise solutions to help them achieve their goals".
"Our audience has grown, the people that we sell to," said HPE's worldwide head of partner sales, Paul Hunter, unveiling the initiative to almost 1400 partners at the vendor's Technology and Solutions Summit (TSS) 2019 in Paris. Hunter said that the channel no longer sells to just the IT department and "therefore, it's incumbent on us to connect what we do with the business that we're selling to".
This means evolving the channel's presales engagement from a discussion about technology, to discovering the customer's business objectives.
"The key role that helps the customer achieve their business outcome is the solution architect," Brian Beneda, manager, HPE Global Technical Enablement, told press at the event. "They're the person that sits in front of the customer and collects their business requirements and translates that into a technical strategy and architecture."
On the launch of the Tech Pro Community, Beneda said: "There are a lot of vendors that provide technical training on their products...we're flipping the model. We're starting with 'what's the business outcome that the customer is trying to achieve?' and backing that into the product and solution components."
"We're investing because we think that's where the market's going, and that's where the investment is going to be," said Beneda.
Prior to the announcement, the vendor cited previous Gartner research that claims that as many as 75% of enterprises will fail to meet all their digital objectives. Gartner claims these firms will be "dragged down by conflicting digital transformation imperatives, ineffective technology innovation, cloud infrastructure transition, and underfunded end-of-life core systems."
So why are solution architects arguably the lynchpin to a successful transformation project?
"The solution architect is someone who understands the business language of our customers, in many cases they understand the industry because they have that industry expertise, or they have horizontal expertise. But they also have the technology expertise so they can translate what the customer is trying to achieve...into a solution architecture," says Beneda.
"We've really scaled up in the capability and the complexity in the types of business problems the channel at large can solve...at every stop along that journey there has been a combination of both technical and business skills," he tells Channel Pro. "But nowadays the technology is a C-suite-level issue, with the investments you need to stay competitive in any industry. So our solution architects need to be able to interact on that level to drive an IT solution."
'Dynamic and responsive'
Matt Beale, a presales architect at HPE Gold Partner Ultima Business Solutions, has worked with Royal Berkshire NHS Trust to migrate their legacy infrastructure to a digital platform. In doing so, he says, he engaged with doctors, nurses and clinicians to understand their needs.
"It was about being dynamic and responsive to what the needs of that business are," he explains. "It's about moving away from pure 'speeds and feeds' that bog down the conversation and make it a difficult sell. It's about moving to that business-level conversation."
Beale says the hospital was looking at how they can help not only the patients and nurses, but the family experience, "so the services are excellent for everyone in the facility...which makes everyone get better faster".
"That writing on the line between business and technology is the key role in the market; it's where we see a lot of value for customer demand," says Beneda, adding that the role of the solution architect is to "explore the art of what's possible with the customer...it's a very creative, engaging role if it's done properly".
Elsewhere, Hunter says he is also keen to lay the groundwork for future generation of techies in the channel, and to use the Tech Pro Community to encourage younger architects to get certified.
"There's the tactical reality that our customers need more expertise, the more that we can do that, the more we will grow - particularly when we look at the success of our solutions portfolio," Hunter tells Channel Pro.
"But from an aspirational perspective, we want to be encouraging the future generations of technology advocates that are working with us."
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Christine has been a tech journalist for over 20 years, 10 of which she spent exclusively covering the IT Channel. From 2006-2009 she worked as the editor of Channel Business, before moving on to ChannelPro where she was editor and, latterly, senior editor.
Since 2016, she has been a freelance writer, editor, and copywriter and continues to cover the channel in addition to broader IT themes. Additionally, she provides media training explaining what the channel is and why it’s important to businesses.